Hongcun village in Anhui province, China. (Shutterstock/Haobo Wang)
As trans-provincial travel in China resumed after months-long suspension due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the usual hustle and bustle returns to tourist attractions across the country.
"I received over 20 guests from Hebei and Inner Mongolia today, a big improvement compared with previous months," said Huang Min, a tour guide based in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced on July 14 that travel agencies and online tourism companies were allowed to resume their trans-provincial group tours gradually. The resumption has unleashed the domestic travel demand of Chinese people who had been confined to their homes for months to prevent the spread of the virus.
Since July 29, popular tourist destinations across the country have received nearly three times the tourists compared with last quarter, according to a report released by the country's major online travel agency Trip.com Group.
"The resumption of trans-provincial travel has boosted the tourism sector. Take Hongcun (a historic village in Hongcun Town), for example, its average daily visitors have increased to more than 3,000, nearly half of the number in the same period last year," said Hu Weimin, marketing director of Yixian County Hui Huang Tourism Group.
According to Hu, as the resumption comes ahead of the summer vacation, family travel has become quite popular, registering an increase of nearly 60 percent.
Travel agencies that encountered financial difficulties due to the epidemic have also returned to work.
Trip.com Group's report showed that over 4,000 travel agencies have launched domestic travel products on its platform.
Liang Jianzhang, chairman and co-founder of Trip.com Group said in the first half the year, travel agencies had to rely on short trips to survive and the revenue only accounted for one-tenth of their previous income.
Liang added that outbound tourism usually accounts for half of the revenue for travel agencies and 40 percent of their earning comes from cross-provincial travel.
Wu Minghua, a 34-year-old from Guangdong, said tourists like himself had to sign an undertaking that mentioned about complying with anti-epidemic measures such as daily temperature screening, among others.
"We were told before the trip that vehicles will be disinfected every day to ensure a clean and safe environment for passengers," said Wu.
Due to the impact of the epidemic, small-scale and customized tour groups began to gain popularity, said Li Kang, head of a travel agency in Hefei, capital of Anhui province.
"People are willing to pay more for quality service and strict health and safety protection measures," Li said.
As scenic spots are busy preparing for a major inflow of tourists, local tourism departments also introduced incentives to attract visitors from outside the region. Provinces such as Shandong, Shanxi, Henan, and Guizhou announced free tickets or big discounts to tourists.
"Hongcun will allow free entry for children under 16 when they travel with their parents," said Hu.
"We are eager to seize the opportunity by offering tailored services to meet demands of tourists amid the recovering tourism market," said Li.
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